When the time comes for your little one to begin attending school, it can be heart-wrenching to watch his tiny little form clamber up the steps of the massive school bus, knowing that he’s growing up no matter how much you may not want him to. Even though you can’t stop him from getting older, you can help him prepare for this transitional age in his life, starting with what to expect when riding the school bus. There are a wide variety of things that your little scholar should know before he takes his first school bus ride, but these five are among the most important.
- What to Do if the Bus Is Late – While the system governing school transportation is usually an efficient and effective one, it’s important for parents and kids to understand that the system is run by human beings, who are not infallible. Buses can be late, delayed by inclement weather or other situations out of the drivers’ control. A late bus can cause children who are eagerly waiting to return home from school to panic. To prepare your children for this situation, be sure that they know what they should do and who they should contact to notify them of the situation. Instill in them the notion that the most important thing to do is follow the instructions of their teachers and school administrators until the bus arrives. Almost all schools will have a contingency plan in place for just such an event, but your child needs to know that he will be taken care of and that the event, while new and scary to him, is one that the school staff is trained to handle.
- Pay Attention At All Stops – Very few experiences that your child has on the bus are as disconcerting as realizing that their stop has been passed and that they’re now in unfamiliar territory. While many drivers will keep in mind that a very young, inexperienced rider could be distracted by socializing and the novelty of riding a school bus, most will only wait so long to see if a child is present for their stop before heading to the next. Sleeping children are particularly difficult for a driver to see, so your child should be taught the importance of paying attention, staying awake, and getting off at the right stop.
- How to Follow the Rules – Though some rules can seem unnecessarily strict to young children, your child should understand that those rules are in place to protect him and ensure his safety, as well as the safety of others. Shouting, standing up, roughhousing, or otherwise misbehaving can cause him to be subjected to disciplinary action up to and including suspension of bus privileges. Your child’s school will inform you about the rules governing bus behavior and will usually include a dedicated section in the school handbook. Taking the time to go over these rules and ensuring that your child is well-versed in what is and is not allowed when riding the bus can help him avoid any disciplinary problems and ensure a safe riding experience.
- General School Bus Safety – Kids should know general bus safety guidelines before their first bus trip to ensure that they don’t inadvertently engage in unsafe behavior. It’s important to teach your child that he should always step away from the curb as the bus is approaching, and should only walk towards it after the bus has come to a complete stop. He should also know that he should never stoop to pick up objects that have fallen under the bus, and that he should only cross the street in front of the bus and at a distance of at least ten feet to ensure that the driver can see him. The small stature and quick movements of younger children make it difficult for drivers to spot them, and also makes it harder for a child to spot oncoming vehicles and other obstacles.
- The Dangers of Bullying – Bullying is a very serious problem, and it’s one that often occurs in the raucous environment of the school bus. Because bus drivers can have difficulty hearing everything that’s being said to an individual child over the collective din of many little voices, you simply cannot rely on the bus driver’s ability to detect and prevent bullying. Your child should understand the dangers of being a bully themselves, and know what to do if they’re the victim of bullying from other children on the bus. Letting him know that he can always tell an adult about any problems that he’s having or difficulties he’s forced to endure on the school bus is very important, because he may feel as if he has nowhere to turn if he becomes a target of school bus bullies.
To get children prepared for their first trip on the school bus, role play various scenarios and talk about what to expect from the trip. Be sure to include everything from boarding the bus, to paying attention at each stop, to exiting the bus safely, and everything that could happen in between.
P.S. This post was proposed to me for publication by Molly Cunningham. I'm therefore publishing it by her invitation and under her permission. See also the link below fore more information: